On 23rd August 1994, the K Foundation, an art group best known when performing as pop group The KLF, travelled to the Scottish island of Jura and burned a million pounds of their own money inside a disused boathouse. A visual record of the event was made to a Hi-8 video tape. Even after curtailing their musical career in 1992, continuing royalties from record sales led to a decision on what to do with the surplus that had not been spent on other art projects, so it was chosen to make an artwork using money as its medium. The name of the piece is “K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.”
On 3rd March 2021, the YouTube channel “BurntBanksy” posted a video depicting the burning a print of a work by Banksy, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit,” marking the moment when a physical work of art becomes a digital one. A non-fungible token (NFT) representing the physical work was minted in a blockchain before the burning, which was subsequently sold on an online auction site for $380,000, marking a $285,000 increase in value over its original form when purchased by a blockchain firm. Banksy’s original work depicts a traditional auction room, its title contained within the frame of the work being sold.
Both art works were considered as cynical moves after their creation, particularly the latter being derived from the work of another artist, but it is clear that the K Foundation were most interested in the moments their work was created and existed, whereas the NFT created from the burnt Banksy print, and the selling of it, was intended to be the end product.
With the international art market currently in the grip of a speculative bubble blown by NFTs of Jack Dorsey’s first Tweet (sold for $2.5 million), a corrected version of the “Nyan Cat” GIF image ($800,000) and “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” a JPEG compendium of images created by Mike Winkelmann, known as “Beeple” ($69 million), and the knowledge that this bubble is powered entirely by blockchains, from the minting of the NFTs to the existence of the cryptocurrencies used to buy the works, what has been created is an alternative ecosystem of existence that is dependent on the provenance of computer code.
Two weeks ago, I had never even heard of NFTs, let alone have various articles explain the concept of fungibility, which I had also never heard about previously. The notion of an item being rendered irreplaceable with another item only by its registration in a system that may require more energy in its lifetime to maintain its code than the original item would have needed to be created in the first place has become something that needs to be contemplated, let alone the virtual token acting as something to which a monetary value can be assigned in place of the item itself.
If I did that with this article, how much do you think I could get for it?